Thursday, January 17, 2013

Well, Hello Dolly

In the week leading up to the presidential inauguration,
I thought it would be fun to look at some of the foods served at inaugural parties
or lacking that information, those that were favored
by a few of the eight presidents who were Virginia natives.

One reason Virginia is sometimes called the "mother of presidents" 
is because three of the first four U. S. presidents
 (and of course, five subsequent ones) were Virginia's native sons.
Following our third president, Thomas Jefferson,  
was Jefferson's friend James Madison,
author of the Bill of Rights, "The Father of the Constitution,"
and perhaps most interesting of all, 
husband to the glamorous Dolley Payne Todd.

James Madison, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Miller Center at the University of Virginia
describes Dolley as "a lively Philadelphia widow."
By all accounts, Madison was a quiet and bookish man
and Dolley was a vivacious social butterfly 
who loved grand gatherings and elaborate dinner parties.
Given their contrasting personalities,
theirs was a surprising match.

Dolley Madison, courtesy of

Dolley was often openly criticized by her husband's political opponents,
who condemned her for "gambling, wearing make-up, and using tobacco."
Since she was born and raised a Virginia Quaker,
all of those criticisms seem particularly unlikely.
Margaret Bayard Smith, who wrote about early Washington life,
said that Mrs. Madison was one who behaved with "perfect propriety."
One thing is certain: Dolley Madison loved a good party.

I found a really fascinating and award-winning web site called The Food Timeline,
 written and researched by Lynn Oliver:
The web site includes some of Dolley Madison's favorite cake recipes:
"Soft Gingerbread," which called for a healthy dose of molasses--
and beef drippings;
and "Cinnamon Cake" made with butter, 
flour, sugar, and two tablespoons of cinnamon.

Dolley also served  "Layer Cake,"
which was a favorite of guests. 
Her Layer Cake is a white cake with a caramel frosting,
and it sounds delicious.
These cake recipes and more are available on Ms. Oliver's Food Timeline.
Click on the link above.

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